Why should we worry about disinformation campaigns you recently cited the hashtag help turkey online campaign which garnered more than 2.5 million tweets on twitter as an example of this disinformation.
- Many Indian Website were using disinformation propaganda against Pakistan wich were exposed by Disinfo.eu
This information in general is hugely important social media is now the new frontier of the information space and information defines what we know and eventually it defines how we act and how we behave and how we interact with with each other so this is why it’s important the help turkey hashtag was fascinating simply because it was huge over 2.7 million tweets and we didn’t really know who started it so when analyzed it was curious to find out.
That there was lots of real accounts which is understandable but there was also clearly accounts that were in that on that hashtag who were trying to artificially amplify the salience of that hashtag by tweeting loads and then they’d engage in deceptive behaviors like deleting the tweets that they’d sent and then changing the handle their screen name on twitter and by deleting the tweets it’s still the twitter’s algorithm still registered those those that trend but it would make the account look less spammy.
The account would have less chance of being suspended was very interesting about this hashtag generally it was there was clearly manipulation going on and we have to ask ourselves why and this is a great example of how unknown actors with no accountability can manipulate.
The information space to send a specific strategic message that benefits them and we’re left in the dark as to who those are and this is a huge problem because we don’t know who is controlling narratives we can guess or we can hypothesize but we don’t know so we don’t know so there’s a level of deniability. there’s easily levels of deniability mean there’s no smoking gun in most disinformation cases you can find them but they’re very difficult and that often takes old fashioned journalism investigative.
Journalism leaks and that kind of thing so this is a huge problem there’s easy deniability and this is how states thrive because they can use this space with zero accountability and it’s so hard to find evidence to pin them down so do you see information warfare as the new frontier of cyber warfare. We’ve always had information warfare we’ve always had propaganda the key thing is technology changes information warfare to a huge degree before radio.
For example we maybe just had newspapers before newspapers it wasn’t clear exactly what we had and then came the internet and what this has allowed is a decentralization of the information space there’s no just gatekeepers for example government ministries who can send out a message that’s regulated or controlled anyone can send a message and send it instantly to anywhere across the world so this is why the internet age poses such a huge challenge for disinformation.
Next up we have artificial intelligence all these kind of new technologies that again are threatening to take us to another level of information warfare that we’re not prepared for now what are some of the real life consequences of these disinformation campaigns particularly in the region.
In the middle east and in north africa if you want to break it down to the most extreme case disinformation can lead to war and conflict and genocide within the kind of non-western world we certainly saw for example facebook play a role in genocide.
This information flourished social media companies don’t regulate the non-western world as much so it’s the wild west of this information in the middle east we see bot accounts spreading sectarian hate speech we see accounts from mostly Saudi Arabia.
The United arab emirates dominating the arabic language twitter sphere so what that means is if you look at content in arabic on twitter you’re more likely to see propaganda emanating from the UAE and Saudi two countries that don’t have a real civil society the online space is heavily censored and co-opted.
So all that information is essentially state propaganda and and this is hugely problematic.
Three years ago now four years ago in 2021 when Bahrain the United Arab Emirates and Egypt launched a blockade against Qatar they initiated this blockade with a cyber a hack but also an information war online an information award that was basically attempting to generate animosity within Qatar to overthrow the government.
If we look in the 50s when for example there was operation Ajax in Iran where the CiA paid a few people to protest outside buildings in order to try and generate crowns we see the same happening online it’s a digital renter crowd and you can these things in a very hotly contested area can spark anything you know false news hate speech could prompt a killing that killing could then set off a chain of events that could result in a conflict.
Let’s not forget that some of the worst conflicts in the past 100 years have been based often on ideology and ideology is based on information availability we saw the rise of the Nazi germany a lot of this was fueled by Xenophobia that was fueled by propaganda and anti-semitism we see the same now in the middle east we see certain entities being demonized in the in the case of the gulf now it’s Turkey and Iran being demonized to a logic sense or in a religious context.
The Shia being demonized so there’s all these different tropes going about on social media and it’s really accentuating divisions between people so some real life consequences from the cyber into the physical security realm.